NC bill would help family of slain Raleigh police officer killed in mass shooting


Raleigh shooting coverage

Seven people were shot in Raleigh, NC, near the Neuse River Greenway Trail. Five were killed, including a Raleigh police officer. Check back for the latest updates from The News & Observer.

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A new bill would extend death benefits to the families of public safety employees killed on their way to and from work, retroactively helping the wife and daughter of a Raleigh police officer who was fatally shot in the Hedingham mass shooting.

The bill, named after Raleigh Police Officer Gabriel Torres, would apply to police officers, firefighters and other public safety employees by amending a law already on the books. That law, the Public Safety Employees’ Death Benefits Act, currently offers death benefits for those same employees if they are on active duty or on their way to and from training.

“I learned the day after the incident that (Torres) would not automatically be classified as having fallen in the line of duty,” said Rep. Sarah Crawford, a Wake County Democrat, who is sponsoring the bill. “I thought that that was a loophole that we needed to fix in North Carolina. And so I went about the work right away, to figure out how we could get that done.”

Raleigh mass shooting

Torres was one of five people fatally shot in the east Raleigh neighborhood on Oct. 13 by a 15-year-old teenager, police said.

Torres, 29, was off-duty but on his way to work when he was shot and killed. He’d been with the Raleigh Police Department for 18 months and was a former Marine. He left behind a wife, Jasmin, and their young daughter, Layla.

This change in state law was important to his wife, Crawford said. The N.C. Industrial Commission is still deciding how to classify her husband’s death, she said, forcing Jasmin Torres to repeatedly fill out detailed forms about how he died while trying to get his death classified as having “fallen in the line of duty.”

“I think it’s unconscionable that we are making a young mother who has been widowed through a tragic act of violence relive her worst day, over and over, in order to do that,” Crawford said. “He should be classified as the hero that he is.”

Gabriel Torres was one of five people killed in a mass shooting in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. Torres, a Raleigh Police officer, was off-duty and on his way to work when he was shot.
Gabriel Torres was one of five people killed in a mass shooting in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. Torres, a Raleigh Police officer, was off-duty and on his way to work when he was shot. RPD

The bill, which has bipartisan support, received a favorable committee report this week and is expected to become law.

“I am very happy to support this in honor of Gabe Torres and to give more support to our police officers who face risks to their life while answering the call to protect the public,” said Rep. Erin Parè, a Wake County Republican, who is also sponsoring the bill. “It’s a long overdue reform. God bless Gabe and the Torres family.”

Workers compensation claim

Once approved, the bill will be effective Jan. 1, 2022, retroactively covering Torres.

It effectively adds two words to expand who is covered under the current Public Safety Employees’ Death Benefits Act. That law says the spouse of a person killed in the line of duty would receive $100,000, and this act does not affect the benefits offered by the Workers’ Compensation Act.

In February, the Raleigh City Council met in closed session to discuss a workers’ compensation case involving the estate of Torres and the city of Raleigh.

Through a spokesperson on Thursday, the city of Raleigh said “the claim is a pending workers’ compensation matter” the city could not discuss because it contains confidential personnel information.

The Industrial Commission did not return a phone call from The News & Observer on Thursday morning.

This story was originally published April 6, 2023, 2:33 PM.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University.
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